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Coronavirus crisis reveals importance of digital tools for learning in schools


By Hector MacKenzie

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LESSONS learned by teachers, pupils and parents during the coronavirus crisis show that the use of digital tools is not simply a response to the pandemic but a way to support young people's education in the Highlands.

That is one of the conclusions drawn by Highland Council at the close of an unprecedented school term in which thousands of primary and secondary pupils learned from home using the Schools Digital Learning Hub developed by the local authority.

It provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning in conjunction with the use of Chromebook laptops.

Highland Council says that prior to Covid-19 it had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of its information and communication technology learning strategy.

It says that during the lockdown, its education improvement team has been developing the digital learning platform, allowing pupils to transition to learn remotely from home using G-Suite tools on the Chromebooks. G-Suite is a free collection of tools offered by technology company Google and includes applications such as Google Docs, Gmail, Google Classroom, Google Meet, Hangouts and others.

Statistics give an indication of the level of engagement during the lockdown period.
Statistics give an indication of the level of engagement during the lockdown period.

The local authority says that engagement data from G-Suite shows the success of the digital learning platform during lockdown.

In the period starting the week before lockdown to the week beginning April 18, at a point of being in full quarantine, there was an incline of users on various tools.

The average amount of active Google classrooms per week nearly doubled within the three-week period with an increase of 1944 users on the platform the first week of lockdown.

The statistics show a threefold rise in the use of emails over the period with users on the platform rising to 43,961.

Almost 900 Highland staff took the opportunity to improve their digital skills by taking part in a three-tiered essential skills training programme led voluntarily by education staff.

A number of those who completed all the levels now have the view to go on and complete the Google certified courses.

It says: "The success of our digital learning platforms and training opportunities demonstrates that the inclusion of digital tools in our curriculum is not a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but instead, a way in which to support the education of children and young people in Highland."



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